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Friday, March 3, 2006
Today's MRC Spin Point
Topic: Media Research Center
A levee being overtopped and a levee being breached are two distinct and unrelated events:

-- "[NBC's] Lisa Myers, however, recognized the meaning of words and how water flowing over a levee, topping it, is not the same thing as a breaching, the collapse of a levee, which is what occurred." -- Brent Baker, NewsBusters, March 3, repeated in an MRC CyberAlert

-- "[Fox News anchor Brit] Hume set up the discussion by referring to the difference between “breaching,” when a levee fails and what Bush said in an interview was not anticipated, and 'topping,' when some water goes over a levee which remains intact, of which the National Hurricane Center's Max Mayfield had raised as a possibility." -- Brent Baker, NewsBusters, March 2, repeated in a March 3 CyberAlert

-- "On the Thursday March 2 Countdown show, Olbermann ran a story by NBC's Lisa Myers, which had already run earlier on the NBC Nightly News, in which Myers played a clip of meteorologist Maxfield warning administration officials that flood waters from Katrina posed a risk of the levees being 'topped,' which Myers accurately distinguished from a 'breach' through further discussion with Mayfield." Brad Wilmouth, NewsBusters, March 2, repeated in a March 3 CyberAlert

-- "There’s no getting around it. Chris Matthews hears what he wants to hear even when the facts are right in front of him. After showing the video of President Bush being briefed by Max Mayfield saying: "I don’t think anybody can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that’s obviously a very, very grave concern," Matthews took that as evidence that Bush lied when he said no one anticipated the breach of the levees." Geoffrey Dickens, NewsBusters, March 2, repeated in March 3 CyberAlert

-- "Critics of the Bush administration have promoted video of an Aug. 28, 2005, teleconference between emergency management officials and the president as proof that the White House was warned that levees around New Orleans would likely fail against Hurricane Katrina. But a closer examination of the recording and transcript shows no mention that the Crescent City's levees would be breached. ... Further comparison of the video to the transcript by Cybercast News Service indicates that Mayfield's quote, which was not transcribed accurately, came from a discussion of the possibility that water from Katrina's storm surge might flow over the tops of the levees, not that the levees might fail." -- Jeff Johnson,, March 3

In fact, a topped levee is generally a precursor to that levee being breached:

-- "The likely locations and impact of levee overtopping must be addressed. This is a particularly difficult task, because the hydraulics problem created by levee overtopping is a multi-dimensional, unsteady flow problem. Further, when a levee is overtopped, it may breach, so complete analysis also includes the components of a dam-failure analysis." -- Army Corps of Engineers

-- "Moving forward, the storm surge may overtop and undermine the levees built to contain the water in the outlet canals." -- Suburban Emergency Management Project

-- "According to preliminary information from NSF, ASCE, and LSU, most of the levees and floodwall breaches on the east side of New Orleans were caused by overtopping, as the storm surge rose over the tops of the levees and/or their floodwalls and produced erosion that subsequently led to breaches." -- House Select Committee on Katrina

P.S.: Media Matters has more on why this spin is bogus.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:32 PM EST

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